Tourism boom is big boost to Tonbridge economy

DESIRABLE ITEM: Ightham Mote is a popular destination for tourists to the borough

Tourism boom is big boost to Tonbridge economy

by Andy Tong | 13th February 2019

TOURISM is proving to be big business in and around Tonbridge, bringing in £174million of income according to the latest figures from Visit Kent.

The report by the official tourism body shows the value of Tonbridge & Malling’s visitor economy grew by 8.6 per cent in 2017.

There were three million trips made to the borough in total in that year, a rise of 7.6 per cent, of which 2.8 million were day trips – up 8.2 per cent – and 200,000 were overnight stays.

The success was reflected in employment levels, with an 8.5 per cent increase in the number of jobs supported by tourism (3,427).

The industry now accounts for 6 per cent of all employment in the borough, or 3,427 jobs.

Nicolas Heslop, Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council and Cabinet member for Economic Regeneration, said: “This report is very welcome news and shows that, despite challenging conditions in the industry, tourism in Tonbridge and Malling is making a significant contribution to the local economy.

“We have some fantastic attractions in our borough, such as Tonbridge Castle, Great Comp Gardens and Ightham Mote, as well as an expanding array of great places to dine on Kent produce, and it’s all surrounded by picturesque countryside. 

‘Businesses and residents can continue to benefit from increasing investment’

He added: “We will be using the data from this report to help shape future tourism activity to ensure that our borough continues to attract visitors from across the UK and beyond so that local businesses and residents can continue to benefit from the increasing level of investment.”

The research is based on the Cambridge Economic Impact Model, a measure widely respected in the industry, which showed that 65million visitors came to Kent two years ago.

This boosted the tourism economy by 7 per cent to £3.8billion and sustaining 76,828 jobs – the highest figures ever recorded in the county.

Since 2006 the value of Kent’s tourism industry has risen by 33 per cent, and it is the third most popular destination for foreign visitors in the UK outside London.

TOWERS OF STRENGTH: Tonbridge Castle is the jewel in the town's tourism crown

Neighbouring Tunbridge Wells also reaped the rewards, with more than a quarter of a billion pounds accruing for the local economy.

The borough saw 4.7million trips made – an increase of a quarter of a million – providing work for 5,235 people.

Deirdre Wells OBE, chief executive of Visit Kent, said: “Tourism is the UK’s fastest growing service sector and these figures demonstrate the contribution which our vital industry makes to the economy of Kent.

'This partnership will be critical in ensuring this growth continues during a challenging year ahead'

“With our stunning countryside, world-class heritage, and delicious locally sourced food and drink, it is no surprise that visitor numbers are increasing in districts like Tonbridge & Malling.

“The collective efforts of tourism businesses across the county have paid dividends and this partnership will be critical in ensuring this growth continues during a challenging year ahead.”

She added: “These figures demonstrate that, wherever you are based in Kent, tourism can bring growth, prosperity and jobs to your community.

“Our challenge going forward will be to turn more of our day visits into overnight stays and short breaks, bringing even further growth.”

Visit Kent is a public-private partnership involving Kent County Council, all 12 district councils and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, said: “The results from the 2017 survey commissioned by Visit Kent clearly show that the visitor economy is increasingly important to the county’s future prosperity.”

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